I wrote my first story when I was five. I can still remember writing it. I had my first poem published in our local museum – framed and hung on the wall – aged about twelve.
That was the beginning, the beginning of a lifetime of writing, on and off…
Indeed. But what I realise now, and what haunts me every single day, is that it has been more ‘off’ than ‘on’. I have written in phases, spasms almost, sometimes years apart. The University years were prolific, and then the real world took over. My writing took a back seat, relegated there by the imperative of needing to earn a living and then the practicalities of the living itself. There were triggers along the way that prompted sporadic literary activity, but I now know these were far too few.
I feel as if I have let myself down.
How much more might I have written? What have I missed or failed to write in all those years? Who knows? How might my life have been different if I’d recognised and then remained true to my course?
If there is regret, it’s there in spades. Thinking about it, regret is the wrong word. It feels more like grief. There is a sense of loss, of mourning almost. Yet having rediscovered my passion, ‘born again’ if you like, there is a new intensity and purpose driven by that loss. With time running out, I feel as if I have to work doubly hard, partly to make the most of the time I have left, and partly to make up for all those lost years.
This is all rather self-indulgent, you might say, and perhaps it is. But it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like a purpose, a calling, a blinkered and focussed; a making the most of things.
And still, in spite of all the recent and ongoing effort and this strange compulsion I feel, there is no escaping the nagging doubt of worth. In the first instance I write because I must, because now I have no choice. In the second, I do it because I am trying to convey something intangible, or to create something – a feeling, perhaps no more than that – in others. I can measure the impact of my drive because it is tangible; it’s the number of words, or poems, or stories, or books. I have no control over the second. That’s driven by readers; how many there are, and what they think.
If I crave feedback, then it’s not (I hope!) for any kind of glory or reward, but to answer a question, to balance an equation. Recognising this, I can only throw myself onto the mercy of others.